December 31st, 2005 § § permalink
In spite of my best intentions to return to a normal playing routine, my desire and need to spend time with people that are important to me still rules the day. While I am in California I am going to take the time out to spend with friend and family that live here, and I do it without regret, whenever I can make it work. There will be time to practice when I am home in a few days time. I have, however, been able to get in some playing each of the last two days.
Yesterday, I worked in a Caruso routine, plus a run through of the Honegger Intrada during my 15 minute “break” in the Caruso exercises. The Honegger was not on the agenda, but it sounded and fun and I felt like I could handle it without too much strain. It has long been a repertoire piece for me, so I just played it from memory and enjoyed making music for the first time in over a week.
Today, I actually did exactly the same thing. I am a bit upset with myself because I could have squeezed in more practicing today. Instead, I spent the time I had doing some research for the website. I have been very curious about further developing the RSS feed for this blog. I started doing some research on that, and before I knew it, my window for practicing had closed. There won’t be time this evening, so my one routine will have to suffice. This kind of thing is bound to happen during the holidays, or when you travel. The important thing is to keep it to a minimum, and to make sure to get your strength work in whenever you have time.
December 29th, 2005 § Comments Off § permalink
I woke up this morning and faced the demons straight away. I didn’t expect anything too pleasant when I played my first notes today, and the first sounds out of my bell confirmed my fears. After those first trepid notes, though, my playing began to come around, and overall things are feeling pretty good. Don’t get me wrong, there are still miles to cover before I am back in top playing form, but so far, I am right on track.
This morning’s routine was identical to yesterday’s morning session, except I added in Stamp #3 on the mouthpiece and on the trumpet in addition to the Clarke. The face still feels a bit foreign, but there is definite progress. My main goal is to play with absolute ease, never forcing anything, keeping pressure at a minimum.
This afternoon will be more Caruso “six notes” and some Bai Lin. These exercises aren’t the most compelling musically, but it gets my playing to where I want it to be. Patience is the key.
December 28th, 2005 § § permalink
I did it. I spread the stench of my warbling, pubescent, I-haven’t-played-in-a-week, put-me-in-the-Shiner-Parade-Band sound around the intimate confines of my in-law’s house. Okay, it wasn’t that bad, it’s just fun to write that way. After all, when else do you get to use pubescent, warbling, and stench in the same sentence? The truth of the matter is: I am woefully out of shape, but the anticipation of how bad it would be was worse than it actually was.
I did lip bends for 5-10 minutes, then I played the Caruso “six notes” (6 times through), followed by the “Seconds”. I played the “Seconds” exercise exactly as it is outlined in the book. During the 15 minute “break”, I played the Clarke 2nd study (every other exercise from low G to F at the top of the staff) plus the etude. I played the etude slowly to get the fingers back into a groove. At the end of that, I went back for the second time through the Caruso “Seconds”, played through it as described in the book, and put the horn away.
After three hours of rest, I will be back on the Caruso “six notes” again, followed by some Bai Lin Lip Flexibilities, and perhaps some Stamp. Anything more than that will depend on how it feels when I pick the horn back up again. Until then…
I did the afternoon session as planned. The exercises out of the Bai Lin felt surprisingly good. I did numbers: 1, 7, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, and 24. I did not tackle any Stamp. I will work some of that in tomorrow. Ideally, I would do another session this evening, but we are going out and that won’t be possible.
December 28th, 2005 § § permalink
If you followed my recommendations for practice over the holidays, posted in Holiday Madness!, then you are feeling comfortable and in control of your trumpet playing. Maybe you don’t feel at your peak, but you know just a little tweaking of your daily routine (mixed in with some extra practice time) will get you back to the peak of your abilities in no time. What’s that? You didn’t follow my advice? You haven’t played in 5 days? 6 days? The truth be told, neither have I.
So what do you do now? You had all the best intentions, but the holiday craze has brought you down to your knees: like when the bully down the street has your arm, bent and twisted behind your back, and you know this is no innocent game of “Mercy”. How do you escape the death grip that all that time off holds on your trumpet abilities? It isn’t easy, and the thing you will need the most is patience. You may be anxious to get back to playing: dreaming of tackling a difficult new solo, or learning some new excerpts, but you can’t give in to that desire right now. The first thing you have to do is rebuild. That is what I am going to do, and I will write daily posts about what I am doing to get myself back into shape over the next several days. If done well, I will be back and playing at the top of my game very soon: not tomorrow, or the next day, but perhaps by next week. The same will be true for you too. It all depends on exactly what you do, and how your body responds.
Now I am off to do a little work of my own. I am going to start with some lip bend exercises, then jump into my version of the Caruso exercises. I’ll be back to give more details later, but my main concern for the next few days will be wholly based on rebuilding strength. I’ll keep you posted. For those of you that took my advice and kept your playing consistent over the holidays, sit back and bask in the glow of having done the right thing. As Eric Cartman of South Park fame would say, “I hate you guys!”
December 26th, 2005 § Comments Off § permalink
Prada blue jeans: I am flying across the country from Miami to California, and a man comes down the aisle wearing Prada blue jeans. They’re blue, faded, a bit worn; they look comfortable but not stylish. They are average, run-of-the-mill blue jeans. So the question becomes, why Prada? Are they better? Blue jeanier? Is it a status symbol? If so, what is the status that it symbolizes? Right now I am more inclined to think it portrays foolishness more than anything. You have to be wondering why I am writing about blue jeans. In fact, I am wondering myself, but I can’t tell you that. I think the reason that it comes to mind has to do with how we use our resources. Do not panic, this isn’t some random environmental rant, but rather, a common-sense tip for a life in music.
Playing the trumpet is not likely going to make you rich – newsflash – but if you work hard and sacrifice yourself, you will find a reward, and you will be able to support yourself. I make no promises about others, but you can support yourself. Did I mention that you have to sacrifice yourself? Bury yourself is more like it. What about the Prada Jeans?
What do you need in life? I had a student tell me once that he wanted to perform, but that he really needed to make at least $300,000 per year. Swallow. Okay, then perhaps, just perhaps, playing classical trumpet is not his calling. There are limits. We can only expect so much. What do you need in life? Look around you. How did you spend your holiday season this year? How was it all paid for? If you are trying to make a living playing music, then you are laughing right now. You know damn well that the futon in your room was paid for by the 4 weddings you did on a single Saturday last June. Before the futon there was the beanbag chair; stained. If you are living at your parents’ house and want to play the trumpet for a living, take another look around. Can you provide what you want by playing the trumpet? How do you like beanbag chairs? Do you know that you can flatten them into giant round disks, push them together, and make a bed? Well, you can. What about the Prada jeans?
I grew up in Texas and have lived in Sacramento, San Francisco, Chicago, and now Miami. I have never chosen where I live. I have gone where the attractive jobs have been, and I have been fortunate to have them. You don’t pick them; they pick you. Have you ever driven a U-Haul truck? It wouldn’t hurt to get some practice. I have logged over 7,000 miles in one. Music is not glorious. As you probably know, I won the queen mother of all trumpet auditions. I was the vaunted successor to the legendary Bud Herseth. If you read some of the trumpet chat sites after I won that job, you would have thought that the mayor of Chicago himself would be sending a limo to pick me up and take me to the concert hall, where the audience would be waiting with bated breath to hear my dulcet tones. After I left, you could have read the same sites and swear that every one in Chicago spat whenever they heard my name. The truth is, basically nobody cared what I did. Trumpet players care, and that’s about it. I would finish a concert, walk out to the train platform and stand waiting for the train like everyone else: wind biting holes in my clothes, tears frozen to my cheeks. My other transportation option was to drop $400 per month to park the car and wait in the carbon-monoxide-stuffed parking garage for half an hour after the concert, trying to get out. Welcome to the most prestigious trumpet job in the world. Don’t get me wrong; it is a great job, and I have many fond memories of playing in that orchestra. I have other memories too, but it is best not to go there. What about the Prada jeans?
Playing the trumpet for a living can be an incredibly fulfilling, interesting, adventurous way to spend a life. It can also be humiliating, frustrating, frightening, and painful. It is not glorious. If you are playing so that you will become famous, stop practicing and go do something that more people care about. The general population doesn’t care about trumpet players. You should play the trumpet for a living if you simply can’t envision doing anything else; if the feeling of playing just can’t be described well enough; if you enjoy the trumpet and music for their own sake, not for any perceived reward. If, on the other hand, this is something that you enjoy only because people praise you for it, then you might want to look at other options. You will get more praise doing almost anything else. What about the Prada jeans?
Prada jeans are not for trumpet players. That is, unless they belonged to someone you know, or you bought them at a second hand store, or you stole them. But that’s okay. They’re too expensive, they’re baggy in the butt, and they look worse than my 5 year old, $30 Levi’s; a lot worse actually. You don’t need them. Your money can be spent on other things that can help you make a go of this utterly fascinating profession. Did I mention that you can put two beanbag chairs flat on the ground, like a pancake, and make a bed? Well you can. And you can probably get both beanbag chairs for less than those Prada jeans. As a friend of mine used to say, it’s hardly a brainer at all.